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In Tuesday morning’s THINK 11 sessions, the discussion ranged from cashmere to mood lighting, teen entrepreneurship, social media, customer worship and employee empowerment. But if there was a key question, it might be the one our mediator – the superb Valerie Coleman Morris – asked at the end of the roundtable: “If you didn’t work at your credit union, would you want to be a member?”

Walking in your members’ shoes was precisely what customer experience expert Jeanne Bliss advocated in her idea-packed presentation on becoming a beloved company. Bliss believes in the unifying power of customer experience, and to that end she had a few recommendations for credit unions that want to take their customer approach to new levels of excellence:

  • Put member voices in your executives’ ears. Bliss recommends having executives talk directly to unhappy or departing members. This isn’t punishment: It helps company leaders understand at the gut level that members are human and trustworthy, and that each has a story to tell. What faster way to identify where your credit union needs to improve?
  • Hire employees you trust. Instead of focusing entirely on skill sets, consider hiring employees who share core values. If your whole team works with integrity, humanity, judgment and heart, your members can’t help but be wowed.
  • Bring together cross-functional teams. Find out which touch points are most important to members, then work together to make the member experience seamless, memorable and – to every extent possible – joyful. Your members interact with your credit union across silos; your team should come together to deliver the best experience as well.

When organizations bring the full force of their talent and passion to the task of serving members, only then do they earn raves from their members. Bliss notes that only high levels of enthusiasm register in word of mouth or social media.

And yet, Porter Gale offered a shining example of turning rave reviews into massive buzz. As vice president of marketing for Virgin America Airlines, Gale has the fun task of promoting an airline that everyone loves. But she also presented the very real challenge of creating excitement, capturing stories and maintaining a constant social media presence on a budget.

In Gale’s presentation and the THINK IT OUT session with Bliss and Coleman Morris that followed, it was clear that Gale has an extraordinary bank of material to work with. In one photo, she showed Virgin America planes being accompanied into San Francisco International Airport by Virgin Galactic spacecraft. In another, a social media intern poses with rap-pioneer-turned-reality-star MC Hammer. Virgin America hosted a gathering of YouTube stars, who broadcasted in flight from their plane.

These stories may sound a little more, er, glamorous than what happens at your credit union each day. Yet, Gale encouraged attendees to mine their own organizations for stories that capture the human element: “A friend was telling me recently about her five year-old daughter taking money to the bank, and how the people at the bank (or credit union, I don’t know) make a big deal about it. It’s a sweet story and there are probably others like it at your credit unions.”